15 Dec 2017

dba LTV Paranormalists - A Limited Liability - Chapter 1

Chapter 1 - Rainy Day Monday

The morning rain teemed down, turning the field grey.  The overgrown grass hid the signs of construction in the new development, and what the grass couldn't hide, the rain shaded in its gloom.  Two young women crouched under an umbrella, tryng to avoid being soaked.  One, a tall blonde, sighed.  The other. a tawny brunette, shot the blonde a glare.

"I don't know why you brought me here," Ayel said.  She twisted the umbrella in her grasp, trying to relieve a cramp she felt building.

Kristi flicked back her tawny hair, her curls weighed down from the rain.  "I wanted a second set of eyes."

"All I see is rain."

14 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Commentary

With The Devil You Know still being completed, the regular fiction was replaced with a sneak peek my 2017 NaNoWriMo project.  When there's more done with it, it'll be posted here in its entirety, or as much of it that's done given it's a serial.

MechaAcademy began as a concept in 2002, with brief scenes written out but nothing complete.  The problem I ran into then was that I was trying to turn it into a novel when it didn't fit that format at all.  It works as a serial or a series of novellas.  There are elements of soap operas in it, same as Unruly and, to be honest, Subject 13.  The story crept into the list of ideas for NaNo2017 and became a front runner when I realized that I could do what I want with it without worrying about stomping over someone else's intellectual property the way the Shadowrun story would.  I also wanted to have a story done to adapt to another format, whatever that format would be.  At one point, Mecha Academy was planned to be a web comic; that's still a possibility once I either find an artist to work with or learn to draw.

The first chapter introduces the main characters.  I could have started with them meeting in their dorm, but then a key conflict starts and there isn't time to show who they are when they're relaxed.  Each gets a scene of their own, to set them up.  That way, the cliffhanger isn't completely out of the blue.

Rhiannon got the first scene.  Her concept that she is fulfilling the role her brother would have had if he hadn't been killed.  Rhiannon believes in her duty as the heir to the Duchy, and her parents weren't going to stop her.  She's also a little sheltered, thanks to her parents being protective.  That doesn't mean she's naive; Rhiannon isn't going to fall for a simple con.

Miyami has her own secret - she's hacked the system to create a false ID to hide that she's underage.  She has a reason; her parents' business has run into a slow spot, so Miyami applied to the academy.  Miyami is also a royal watcher.  She recognized Rhiannon right away when no one else mentioned anything to the young noble.

Ric's intro went a direction I wasn't expecting.  He's the first to interact with anyone instead of being lost in his own thoughts.  He also didn't exactly hit on Abby, but he was charming.  This sets his personality up in ways I hadn't expected.  The original plan was to have Ric and Rhiannon become an item.  Right now, that's not looking likely, and that's fine.  The story will go where it wants.  Abby wasn't planned on.  She's not going to be a Mara, but now that she's named, she will return.

Dusty was the first to arrive at the academy.  Unlike Rhiannon, Miyami, and Ric, she didn't arrive on planet that day through the spaceport.  She's also more reserved than the rest.  Her scene also explores the setting a bit more, with one of the main sets being detailed.  The dorm has three rooms with bunks, allowing two to a room.  The standard squad is six; Dusty's is down one.  Commander Haag, Dusty's mentor, has a recurring role; he was planned from the start.

Lars is the local boy of the squad.  His family lives not far, a five hour drive away, so his parents dropped him off.  Lars may be the one character in the main cast that can talk to his family without too many problems like faster-than-light restrictions.  He can also call them when he needs help.  The scene also let me put in one of the mecha.  Say hello to it; it'll be some time before it returns.

With the characters established, time to bring them together.  Rhiannon and Miyami were first; they were on the same bus, the one Ric missed and Lars saw unloading.  Miyami is using protocol; Rhiannon's full title is "The Most Honourable Rhiannon Tudor, the Countess of Filton, the Baroness Curren".  The title is a courtesy, taking on a secondary title of both her father, the Duke of Bourgon and her mother, who has her own title of Countess of the Flat Hills along with being the Duchess.  She doesn't want to use it, though.  Lars, being the third to arrive, catches up.  Dusty's already in the room, leading to the cliffhanger.  Seems like Rhiannon and Dusty have a history.

The presence of dukes and duchesses sets up the government of the setting, too.  Thanks to Rhiannon, the Poulos Nova Empire exists.  The core setting is the Colonel KL Terin Academy; everything else got built as I needed to expand from there.  The Empire is loosely based on ideas in the Traveller RPG, but not the Third Imperium.  Rhiannon's father is the Duke of Bourgon, a border region that includes Tamar, the world with the academy.  The means of governing may never come up, but it helps to have it in mind when writing, just in case.  At the planetary level, the planets are more or less self-governing, though they all provide taxes to the Empire as well as locally.  The Empire tries to provide a minimum standard of living, and it's not autocratic.  I loosely based the Empire off the British Commonwealth, so there's a parliament with a House of Lords and a House of Commons at each level, from Empire-wide to planetary and even planetary provinces.  Planets become baronies when they hit a certain population level; below that, they're considered colonies.  Tamar is technically a colony, though getting close to being a full member of the Empire.

The structure of the Royal Guard was needed before I started.  The Guard is split into three main foci - the Foot Guard, or the ground forces, the Sea Guard, the planet-based wet navy, and the Star Guard, the space navy.  The Colonel Terin Academy prepares students to become part of the Foot Guard, and most of the characters at the school will be in that branch.  Commander Haag, though, is Star Guard.  The Foot Guard then was broken down to the different elements, infantry, cavalry, support, military police, and artillery.  The mecha troops fall under infantry, which I've broken down as mechanized infantry, powered infantry, and armoured infantry.  Mechanized infantry is the standard soldier seen even today, the boots on the ground to take and hold territory.  Powered infantry wears powered armour, a step up from cargo exoskeletons.  Armoured infantry covers the mecha troops.  Instead of being twenty to fifty metre tall behemoths, the mecha in the story are two to three metres tall, filling a role between infantry and armour.  The mecha are a force multiplier and can hold territory that armour can't.

Mecha Academy is more space opera than hard science fiction.  The mecha aren't the only advanced vehicles around.  The Thorensen family van uses turbo fans, a higher tech personal hovercraft.  Ric was originally going to arrive on a fanbike - a motorcycle with fans where the wheels would be - but he talked to Abby instead.  There is FTL travel through the use of singularity gates connecting worlds and gate drives for ships that have reason to not want to use the existing connections.  There's even FTL communications that tap into the singularity gates.  But tech shouldn't be the way problems are solved in the story.  No particle of the week story here.

Everything is set up now.  Once the  story starts, we get to see why Rhiannon assaulted Dusty and where Ric is.

Friday, a sneak peak of dba LTV Paranormalists while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be determined.

8 Dec 2017

Mecha Academy - Episode 1 - Roommates

Episode 1 - Roommates
Chapter 1 - From Around the Sector

Rhiannon slipped through the crowd inside Tamar's tiny spaceport.  She stopped long enough to switch her suitcase from one hand to another and get her bearings before continuing her walk.  This far from home, she hoped she wouldn't be recognized right away, but she didn't want ot take the chance.  She chose the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy because it was far from home.  Rhiannon didn't want interference, not from the press and definitely not from her parents.  Ever since her older brother's death two years ago, her parents ramped up their already over protectiveness to new levels.  Rhiannon just didn't want to be sheltered.  It wasn't as if she snuck away, exactly.  It was a family tradition for the heir to the Duchy of Bourgon to serve in the Royal Guard.  Her brother had been serving when he died.  Rhiannon didn't want to be the exception; she could still hear her brother's voice saying how important serving was.

7 Dec 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 20

Ione met the endgame players, in The Devil You Know Chapter 20.

This is how writers get on NSA watch lists.  The adage, "Write what you know," means researching areas that you've never considered before.  I got to research the illegal drug trade and specific mind benders just to figure out what would be involved in the three-way deal Jack's setting up.  I guessed at the amounts based on arrests and numbers tossed around on Miami Vice.  Three hundred kilograms of cocaine should be enough to keep Wall Street high until the end of time.  I needed the larger numbers to show how far up the chain Jack has gone.

Adding to the fun of the above research is krokodil, which gained notoriety in 2013 because it tended to eat away at its user base.  Krokodil is not a good substance to deal in; repeat users become scarce.  Ione pushes for it because she knows it'll be off the streets if Jack's plan works out.

With the weapons, I did some online research, but the bulk of my information came from tabletop RPGs set in the now.  The M-16 is the standard rifle for the US military, so was an easy weapon to choose.  Add in cases of a pistol, the Glock, and a few extras, and everyone is happy.  Except that the AK-74, like its predecessor the AK-47, was meant to be an export to nations that had limited manufacturing.  Get the assault rifle from the wrong supplier and it could be a shoddy weapon.

Ione now has enough evidence to put these guys away.  She just has to turn the information over to the police.  However, that's not why she's there.  As seen in Chapter 19, there is a bigger threat.  How will she deal with it?  Um, later.

Mara raises a good point.  Angels are awesome and terrifying.  Think about the greeting, "Fear not."  It's not "Hello," or, "How's it going," or even "Greetings, puny Earthling."  The angel said, "Fear not," like it was expected for Mary and Joseph to run away, or worse, in fright.  If you go back to Chapter 1, Ione ran.  Sure, part of it was because a warehouse had just exploded, but there was more going on.  You now may be wondering, why didn't Ben cause the same reaction?  Ben's working on muting his frightful side.  He's been among humanity for a while, just like Jack, so he knows how not to be frightening.

I'm not sure how the little character bits between Ione and Mara came about.  I think it was just from their interactions in earlier chapters.  Here, Mara shows some vulnerability.  For a character who wasn't planned, she showed growth.  And even I was surprised to see the crush, but it came naturally.  Thus is the nature of pantsing in NaNo.

You may have noticed the TBA for next week.  I ran out of steam after crossing the 50k mark in 2013.  I have a start on Chapter 21, but it is in now way complete.  I felt like I had written myself into a corner.  Four years later, I think I have an endpoint to hit.  I will be working on it to have up as soon as possible.  This week, though, I'll put up the first chapter of Mecha Academy, raw, no edits, to show what I've been working on this year.  After that, it'll be week by week until I have The Devil You Know complete, with past short works appearing.  However, if TDYK goes much like The Soul Blade did, it shouldn't take long.  I have everything I need laid out.  It's time to pull everything together.

For an added bonus, I've designed Mara through The Sims 3.  While I figured I had a good idea of what she looked like while writing - she is a temptation demon, so what could tempt me? - it's always good to see if I can get the image in my head out.  I don't draw well, so games that allow for character customization are a huge help.

Friday, a sneak peak of Mecha Academy while I get the rest of The Devil You Know written.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, to be announced.

1 Dec 2017

NaNoWriMo 2017 Week 5 Update

Total Words: 67 911
Words Since Last Update: 7609
Completed Chapters: Episode 3 chapters 3, 4.

Pens down!  NaNoWriMo 2017 is over!

My pace slowed down in the last week.  Reaching 50k words meant the big push was over.  I also found that I was far off the original ideas I had for the story.  Some of the later character moments were going to occur far sooner.  That's not really a problem; the way the story was working out, having the tension between the two characters wasn't sustainable.  I also need the squad to work as a team properly.  So, off in a new direction I go!

This isn't my best word count.  That was 2009 with The Soul Blade, with over 83k words.  However, I am happy with the output.  I'm finding that I can maintain a good pace, can create content for longer periods (unlike 2006), and can rebound from a marathon writing session.  My wordiest day occured during the all-day write-in here, with 6250 words written.  Most will be kept, too.  I'm also just above 5000 words short of reaching 700k career NaNo word count.  Many words have been written.

Mecha Academy is going to be set aside for a bit.  I need to finish The Devil You Know, then I want a month off from posting fiction to focus on cleaning up last year's dba LTV Paranormalists.  I hope to work on Mecha Academy after that, to get the current episode completed.

It's far too soon to think about NaNo2018.  I need a bit of time away from the push before I can think straight about next November.  I now have four serials that want work done on them and I like to have a buffer before I start posting anything.

It was a blast participating again.  It felt odd to be motoring along like I was without the dreaded third week doldrums, but that was a good odd.  I am now 12-for-12 with NaNo.  The marathon is second nature now.  Maybe I can write.

The Devil You Know - Chapter 20

Jack and Ben revealed their true natures.
After eating Ben's pork and sautéed onion stir fry, accompanied by a garden salad, the angel excused himself to let Ione and Karen catch each other up on the weekend happenings.  Ben also was the one who sensed someone approaching and was several steps away when a knock came from the door.  He opened it.  "Ah, Mara, we were expecting you."  The smile on the angel's face had no warmth behind it.

"Jack told me you'd be here.  Is Ione still here?"  Mara walked past Ben.  She wore a bright yellow bodysuit that she had unzipped to her navel, giving everyone in the room a good view of her cleavage.

Ione got up from the couch.  "I'm here, Mara."

Karen followed her friend.  "You're Mara?"  She appraised the newcomer.  "Ione, this is Mara?"

"Mara, my friend, Karen."

Karen waved her hand in front of her face.  "Did it just get warm in here?"

30 Nov 2017

The Devil You Know - Commentary 19

The spy thriller becomes an urban fantasy, in The Devil You Know Chapter 19.

Jack's nature revealed!  Finally!  And the biggest problem with labelling The Devil You Know as urban fantasy was the nature of the spoiler.  Until now, there's nothing explicit about the supernatural.  Sure, there were some odd happenings, but I didn't call attention to them.  Ione calls out Gemma having car problems at the end of Chapter 8, but even then, there's nothing said about how the car was disabled.

I did leave a few hints, though.  Some were just turns of phrases, but others were done with purpose.
Chapter 10:
"Speak of the devil."  I wanted to put the idea out there that Jack is a devil.  At this point, there's no reason to assume that Jack is one, just roguish.
Jack learned to fly in Gander.  This was to hint at his age.  Gander was used for training pilots during the First World War, and was also a refuelling point for trans-Atlantic flights.  Jack learned to fly in a biplane during WWI.

Chapter 12:
"No one has ever accused me of not having wealth and taste."  The Rolling Stones song, "Sympathy for the Devil" opens with the line, "Please allow me to introduce myself/I'm a man of wealth and taste."  Jack does have wealth, as seen with his private jet and the kopi luwak coffee.  He also prefers refinement, as seen in his hotel choices.  Again, the line was meant to place the idea of Jack being a devil in readers' heads.

Chapter 13:
The decadent coffee.  Jack chose that blend on purpose to tempt Ione.

Chapter 14:
Jack tempted Ione into having a one night stand against her better judgement.  That's what Jack does for a living, tempts people.

Ben's nature was hinted at, too, but since he and Karen were offscreen for most of the story, there's not much to go on.  Gemma did bash Karen over the head with her pistol.  That act should have left Karen with a concussion and in the hospital.  Ben healed her.

Given the reveal, it might be worth going back and checking out some of Mara's scenes.  There's a reason why she turned into Ms Fanservice.  Temptation demons are always on the job, though Mara is moonlighting a little.  The worst she did was tempt Ione with chocolate.

I didn't work out the theology.  I am using handwavium to distract readers.  Angels, devils, and demons exist.  Gemma has a Valkyrie in her family tree somewhere.  Some of the ideas were inspired by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens, a comedy about the Apocalypse.  Other ideas came from Linda Poitevin's The Grigori Legacy series.  The main takeaways from both is that angels are frightening, humanity has potential, and the Final War between Heaven and Hell isn't a sure thing.  With the latter, if the War was a given for either side, it'd have been fought by now.  Expanding from just Christian beliefs into myths was me, though, and something I would explore again with dba LTV Paranormalists in 2016.

So, did the reveal work?  That's up to the readers to decide.  Let me know in the comments, please.

Friday, meeting the other players, in the The Devil You Know Chapter 20.
Also Friday, over at Psycho Drive-In, going for broke with remaking Manos: The Hands of Fate.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, wrapping up the MST3K remakes.